The National League looks as strong as ever, with as many as 12 of the 15 teams planning to contend in 2019.
The Cubs had a quiet winter, transactionally speaking, but almost every other team in the NL bolster their roster this offseason.
But expectations haven't changed at the corner of Clark and Addison. After a disappointing finish to 2018, Kris Bryant and Co. once again have their sights set on another World Series.
With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:
New York Mets
2018 record: 77-85, 4th in NL East
Offseason additions: Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, Edwin Diaz, J.D. Davis, Jeurys Familia, Jed Lowrie, Adeiny Hechavarria, Keon Broxton, Justin Wilson, Luis Avilan, Hector Santiago, Arismendy Alcantara, Rajai Davis, Carlos Gomez
Offseason departures: David Wright, Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Wilmer Flores, Jerry Blevins, Jose Reyes, Austin Jackson, A.J. Ramos, Jose Lobaton, Kevin Plawecki
X-factor: Noah Syndergaard
This Mets team got a whole lot better this winter, but they will still need to lean heavily on the guys they already had in-house prior to the offseason. Syndergaard is chief among them.
When healthy, Thor is one of the best pitchers in baseball, capable of hitting triple digits with his fastball to pair with a wicked slider in the low-90s. The problem is, Syndergaard hasn't been all that healthy lately. He's pitched just 184.2 innings over the last two seasons and made only 25 starts a year ago.
It seems like it's been eons since the Mets pitching staff overwhelmed the Cubs in the 2015 NLCS. All those young aces haven't been healthy all at the same time since then, plus the Mets broke up the group when they dealt away Matt Harvey last year.
The 2019 Mets have the potential to be very good, but it's hard to see them keeping up with the rest of the top teams in the powerhouse NL East unless both Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom are healthy all year.
1. Brandon Nimmo - CF
2. Jeff McNeil - LF
3. Robinson Cano - 2B
4. Wilson Ramos - C
5. Michael Conforto - RF
6. J.D. Davis - 3B
7. Dominic Smith - 1B
8. Amed Rosario - SS
1. Jacob deGrom
2. Noah Syndergaard
3. Steven Matz
4. Zack Wheeler
5. Jason Vargas
There was a strong case to crown the Mets the winners of the offseason before the Phillies added Bryce Harper a couple weeks ago. Who knows how it will all play out, but new GM Brodie Van Wagenen has put together a very good team on paper that is significantly better than the roster that surprisingly hung around the .500 mark a year ago.
Adding Cano and Diaz were the huge splashes, but Ramos and Lowrie are steady contributors, bringing back former closer Familia was a nice move and adding depth guys (Wilson, Broxton, Hechavarria, Avilan, Rajai Davis, Gomez, etc.) were key.
But their most underrated acquisition might just be infielder J.D. Davis, a slugger whom they acquired from the Astros in a January trade. At the moment, it appears he has the inside track to be the Mets' Opening Day starter at third base while Todd Frazier and Lowrie are hurt. Davis turns 26 in April and hit .342/.406/.583 (.988 OPS) with 17 homers and 81 RBI in just 85 Triple-A games last year in the Houston farm system.
Between Davis and a pair of power-hitting first base prospects (Dominic Smith, Pete Alonso), the Mets have some young offensive talent ready for the big leagues, plus Nimmo and McNeil — who enjoyed breakouts in 2018.
If the Mets are goin to keep pace with the rest of their division, they're going to need depth and it looks like they have it in spades right now. They have three quality big-league catchers with solid resumes (Ramos plus Travis d'Arnaud and Devin Mesoraco) plus Juan Lagares, who might be their best defensive outfielder.
Once Frazier and Lowrie return shortly after Opening Day and Yoenis Cespedes follows sometime around midseason, this could be a very, very good lineup. Just think what this offense might look like if 23-year-old Rosario finally puts it all together and shows why he was a consenus Top 10 MLB prospect prior to the 2017 campaign.
However, there are still a ton of question marks with this team that are holding it back right now. Is this the year Conforto takes that next step into stardom? Will Cano and Ramos stay healthy (and can Lowrie avoid further injury when he returns)? How much will Cespedes produce in 2019? Is Nimmo the guy that put up a Joey Votto-esque .450 OBP and walked more than he struck out in August and September or is he more like the guy who posted a .346 OBP with 74 whiffs in 50 games in June and July?
This pitching staff is also very top-heavy. After deGrom and Syndergaard in the rotation and Diaz and Familia in the bullpen, nobody knows quite what the Mets will get from the rest of their arms. Wheeler and Matz enjoyed bounceback seasons a year ago, but they still need to prove their checkered injury histories are in the rearview mirror.
There's more than enough talent on this team to compete, but will they have enough to compete with the likes of the Phillies, Braves and Nationals? I'm not betting on it, but hey, I've been wrong before (just once, though, and it was back in my high school days).
Prediction: 4th in NL East, a few games behind in the Wild-Card race
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